Bulls

Bulls feel better prepared for this postseason

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Bulls feel better prepared for this postseason

The regular season is in the books and the Bulls will at least share a piece of the best record in this shortened season and have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Its been a different year for all 30 teams throughout the league, but even with some concerns going into the postseason regarding the health of reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls feel they are better equipped for this postseason run as opposed to last season.

We have more scoring this year, said Tom Thibodeau. Last year, Derrick, we really relied heavily on his scoring to give ourselves a good chance to win. This year, Derrick doesnt have to score like that. We have a number of guys who can score the ball. Its a more balanced attack. Having six guys who can score in double figures helps a lot.

Probably the biggest difference from last year is we had guys up front that were coming off of injury and now our guys up front have been healthy all year. The injuries have been to the guys in the backcourt. Our bench has been great all season long. I think Derrick is feeling, probably, better than he has in a long time, so thats a big plus and Rip Hamilton has gotten his legs under him. We just have to be ready to go.

It seems almost every one of the 14 players on the roster has stepped up at some point during the season when someone was injured. No matter if it was Rose, Deng or Hamilton, the depth of the team truly shined when it was most needed.

It just shows that our coaching staff and organization put a core group together where 1 through 14 can flat-out play, said John Lucas III. "Everybody has confidence and one thing about this team is we all have each others back.

"Nobody gets down; we all want to see each other succeed. We have great chemistry. Mentally, were right there and now its time. Now the season really starts. Were excited and we feel like we have unfinished business to attend to.

Fifty wins in a 66 game season is very impressive, but as last year showed, the leagues best record doesnt mean anything when everybody goes back to 0-0.

Theres also the fact that their Bulls' starting lineup has only played in just 15 games together, which may or may not have a significant impact at some point during the postseason.

I think weve played well enough to do well in the playoffs, said Carlos Boozer. Our chemistry is very good and I think we been able to use our practices to come along and get over the hump on having guys out.

"We had a couple of different guys out at different times, but we been able to play through it because we practice well and were a deep team, so it worked out good.

All eyes are sure to be on Rose when the postseason starts as many will look to see some form of the offensive dominance he displayed last postseason, but this year, the feeling within the Bulls locker room is he doesnt have to be that player.

Were so much spread out now, said Boozer. Obviously, hes our closer and our MVP, but were so deep. We have four or five other guys who can get you 20 points on a given night. Weve been able to gel with him and surround him with a lot of talent and a lot of players who can score the ball. Then when the game is on the line, you know where the ball is going and he comes through for us time and time again.

Hes not 100 percent but hes going to play with everything that he has and its a lot better than other guys have. Well take that.

Bulls Talk Podcast: How NBA Draft combine impacted mock drafts

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: How NBA Draft combine impacted mock drafts

On this edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill discuss the NBA Draft and what happened at the NBA combine that shifted most experts mock drafts.

Kendall also explains why a "promise" to draft a player isn’t guaranteed. He also shares his experience on getting drafted by the Hornets and why he initially felt they were the wrong team for him.

North Carolina "News and Observer" Duke basketball beat writer Jonathan Alexander gives us his opinion on Wendell Carter and the other Duke draft prospects including why he thinks Carter will be a future all-star. Also includes an interview with Carter from the draft combine.

Listen to the full Bulls Talk Podcast right here:

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Bears coaching upheavals portend inevitable stumbles

Call it a small Bears reality check, if not a full wake-up call, then at least a nudge in the night. And this sort of thing should be expected, not just in OTAs, not just in training camp or preseason, but when it all counts.

And it should serve as a lesson of sorts. Because some of the underlying reasons are worth a little highlighting and patient understanding around a team that has spent its offseason and millions of dollars refashioning an offense, beginning with coach Matt Nagy and coordinator Mark Helfrich, and that offense wasn’t particularly good on Wednesday.

In a sport where the operative cliché is “just get better each and every day,” the Bears didn’t, but as far as their coach is concerned, “there’s two ways to look at it,” Nagy said. “Whether you say on our side, on offense, trying to see a bunch of different looks a defense can give you, is it too much or not? It’s good for us. It’ll help us out in the long run. It’s good for our players and they’ve handled it well. There’s going to be mistakes but they have it on tape to be able to look at. “

This is about more than just a few bad reps or missed assignments. It’s part of the good-news-bad-news reality that a sea change brings to a team.

The good news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The bad news is that the Bears have a new coaching staff on offense.

The Bears defense is predictably ahead of the offense, hardly a surprise, given that most of the core of the top-10 unit has remained in place. That said, you do have to like the attitude of the barely-above-rookie No. 1 quarterback challenging that assessment Wednesday, with a “Who says that?”

This while the offense has myriad moving and new parts, and interceptions, blown plays and such were occurring for an offense that, like Halas Hall, is a massive building work in progress.

“Well, today was a bad ‘build,’ but that’s to be expected,” Helfrich acknowledged. “We’re adding a chunk each day, I thought today was the first day where we had somebody do something that just like, ‘wait, OK’ – a few positions here and there, a few new guys, obviously a few veterans here and there that it’s all new to, hit the wall.”

It’s a “wall” that arguably is inevitable with a coaching change.

Not to make excuses, but….

For a sense of perspective, scroll back to Jay Cutler, who went through offensive coordinators perhaps faster than he went through socks: a year with Ron Turner, two with Mike Martz, one with Mike Tice, two with Aaron Kromer, one with Adam Gase, one with Dowell Loggains, who at least was a holdover from the Gase year. (Whether Cutler’s failure to match potential with production was the cause of or because of that turnover, this humble and faithful narrator leaves to you, the reader).

More than a few current Bears can only dream of that kind of “stability.” And because of that, the 2018 pre- and regular seasons may be bumpier than the optimism surrounding the Nagy hire was anticipating.

Guard Kyle Long, still not practicing full-go while he rehabs from surgeries, is on his fifth offensive-line coach in six NFL seasons. Center Cody Whitehair, who has started every game since the Bears drafted him in the 2016 second round, has had three different line coaches in as many seasons: Dave Magazu for 2016, Jeremiah Washburn for 2017 and now Harry Hiestand. Left tackle Charles Leno was drafted in 2014, making Hiestand Leno’s fourth O-line coach.

And this is the offensive line, the unit that most engenders use of the term “continuity.”

“Each coach brings in a little bit, different techniques,” Whitehair said. “There’s a lot of time for us to hone in and get to know what he’s trying to teach us. But in the end it’s still football.”

Kevin White is entering his fourth NFL season. He is on his fourth receivers coach (Mike Groh, Curtis Johnson, Zach Azzanni, Mike Furrey) and third different season-starting quarterback (Jay Cutler, Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky), not including offseason battery mates ranging from Jimmy Clausen, Brian Hoyer, David Fales and Connor Shaw, depending on how much rep time he spent with which unit at various times during his training camps.

“It doesn’t matter,” White said. “Roll with the punches, come here and do my job every day.”

Regardless of how many bosses you’ve reported to.